The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 50

Psa 50:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "A PSALM OF ASAPH". Asaph was a prominent Levite appointed by David to supervise the praise of the sanctuary (1Ch 16:4,5). "The sons of Asaph" were still represented in the temple organization in the time of Hezekiah (2Ch 29:13). Another Asaph in that reign, the father of Hezekiah's secretary of state (2Ki 18:18,26). All 12 of the Asaph psalms belong to the time of Hezekiah. But why is this one separated from the rest (73-83) by a large block of psalms of David? And why 12? Because of Hezekiah's attempt to reunify the 12 tribes of the northern and southern kingdoms. In particular, this Psa 50 reads as an appeal to the northern tribes to resume their loyalty to Jehovah and His temple in Jerusalem.

THE MIGHTY ONE, GOD, THE LORD: El Elohim Jehovah. This remarkable title of God comes in only one other passage: Jos 22:22, where it occurs twice. Jos 22 is all about an earlier poss rift in the unity of the twelve tribes. Vv 23, 26-29 there are esp important. The issue both there and here (ie in Hezekiah's day) was loyalty to the central sanctuary of the Lord, particularly in the matter of sacrifice. This principle is developed below in vv 8-13.

Psa 50:2

FROM ZION: Not from Dan or Bethel, the former of which was now in ruins.

PERFECT IN BEAUTY: Zion is so called in Psa 48:2. Also see Act 3:2, and the very sad quotation in Lam 2:15.

GOD SHINES FORTH: An allusion to Deu 33:2, where the "saints" are mentioned again (cp v 5 here). But that is the old covenant at Sinai; this is the new covenant in Christ. This requires that Messiah be now established as King in Jerusalem; v 3 fully confirms this. Here is the OT anticipation of Mat 24:29-31; 13:49; and v 1 is matched by Mat 24:27. Cp also Psa 80:1, where the Cherubim of Divine Glory "shine forth" in a great "theophany".

Psa 50:3

A promise of a violent divine intervention on behalf of a shattered land. It came in the destruction of Sennacherib's army: Isa 30:30,31.

A FIRE DEVOURS BEFORE HIM, AND AROUND HIM A TEMPEST RAGES: (NT) Consider the fire in Eze 1:13, and the whirlwind in Eze 1:4. For Christ coming in divine manifestation, see also Isa 66:15,16; Psa 18:8,12,13; Jer 25:30-33; 2Th 1:7,8; Heb 12:29; 2Pe 3:3,4,7,10,12.

Psa 50:4

HEAVENS: ie the angels (Isa 37:36).

EARTH: Or Land.

THAT HE MAY JUDGE HIS PEOPLE: That He may "judge" on behalf of His people.

(NT) This is the language of Deu 30:19; 31:28. Now is Israel's final day of accountability. This v is quoted in Heb 10:30, and v 5 here links with Heb 10:14,16 there (saints, covenant). This is doubly appropriate, for Heb is one long appeal to Jewish believers who were drifting away into disloyalty.

Psa 50:5

GATHER TO ME MY CONSECRATED ONES: "My saints (holy people)". In this v is the divine sanction behind the great attempt of Hezekiah to unify all Israel: 2Ch 30.

WHO MADE A COVENANT WITH ME BY SACRIFICE: The covenant of Exo 24:3-8, which -- apostasy notwithstanding -- had not yet been disannulled.

A COVENANT: (NT) See Mat 26:28.

A COVENANT WITH ME BY SACRIFICE: (NT) "We have... now to do with... the bema, or Supreme Court, the judicial bench, styled in Rom 14:10, and 2Co 5:10, 'the Judgment Seat of Christ'. All who have made a covenant with Yahweh by sacrifice and are in any way related to 'the Covenants of Promise', will be gathered (Psa 50:5) and stand before this" (Eur 3:585). That this great Judgment Seat will be in Zion is evident by a comparison of v 5 with v 2 (also see Isa 66:22,23; Psa 87:6; 133:3; Gal 4:26; Mat 25:31).

Psa 50:6

HEAVENS: Angels again (as in v 4).

PROCLAIM HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS: In the judgment on the Assyrians.

THE HEAVENS PROCLAIM HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS: (NT) "The new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (Isa 66:22; 2Pe 3:13; cp Psa 19:1).

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 50:7

Vv 7-14: Obedience and praise equated with animal sacrifice: 1Sa 15:22; Isa 1:10-20; Hos 6:6 (Mat 9:13; 12:7).

HEAR... O ISRAEL: The Shema (Deu 6:4), is unmistakable, and perfectly appropriate with ref to a people which had brought in Baal and other gods alongside Jehovah.

I AM GOD: And there is none else.

Psa 50:8

Vv 8-15: In these paragraphs, God is not rejecting sacrifices as such. Such a sweeping conclusion is impossible in the light of the abundant details in 2Ch 29; 30. What is being rejected is the way in which Israel in its self-appointed sanctuaries went on blithely offering sacrifices ("Your burnt offerings are continually before me": v 8, RSV), while being in spirit completely estranged from Zion and Zion's God. None of these sacrifices were worth anything in terms of real devotion; did not all these animals belong to Yahweh in the first place? (See the related exhortations in Psa 51:16,17; Pro 21:3; Mic 6:6-8; Isa 1:11-13; Jer 6:20; 7:22,23; 1Sa 15:22.)

God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (Joh 4:24). Services of a mechanical sort, as to outward form (whether it be Mosaic ritual and offering -- or Sunday School, memorial meeting, and daily readings) will avail nothing, and are in fact abominations, if not accompanied by sincere devotion of the heart. This was why it was necessary not only for the prodigal ten tribes to return, but to return in the right spirit. The positive exhortation is summed up in vv 14,15: "Call upon me in the day of trouble", as happened time and again in the era of the Judges. The north had already suffered terrible ravages from the Assyrians, yet even from this (humanly) irresistible force they would be delivered, and would have more cause than ever to glorify their God.

EVER: "Continually" (AV). The standard Heb word for the daily burnt offering.

Psa 50:10

THE CATTLE ON A THOUSAND HILLS: How far a wandering herd of cattle can carry our thoughts -- either to envy of the man who owns them and a lust for similar power, or to a realization of the supreme power of God and His all-pervading influence in our lives.

Psa 50:11

I KNOW EVERY BIRD IN THE MOUNTAINS: Is this the source of Jesus' words?: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father" (Mat 10:29). Then, in Mat 10:31, Jesus reminds his followers that they are worth more than many sparrows. So... "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver YOU" (Psa 50:15)!

Psa 50:12

IF I WERE HUNGRY: Five times in Lev 21 the sacrifices are called "the bread of God".

THE WORLD IS MINE: See Psa 24:1,4n. Their deliverance from Egypt showed God's power over all creation and over all false "gods" (Exo 9:29). At His behest, the Israelites went into Sinai to offer "sacrifice", and never returned. They had become themselves the "living sacrifices"!

Psa 50:14

THANK OFFERINGS: So also in v 23. Heb 13:15 refers to this, and borrows "continually" from v 8 here. We can offer acceptable praise and thanksgiving only through Christ, who is our "altar" (Heb 13:10). He is also the true sacrifice that no animal can ever be (vv 8-11 here). // Psa 51:15-17; 69:30,31; 141:2; 40:6-10; Hos 14:1,2 (Hos 14:1,2); Jer 33:11. "What God requires of us is thanksgiving and worship and joy and love for Him and intense desire to get closer to Him and to know more about Him, and please Him and serve Him with all our heart and strength. These things do not come naturally to the natural man. These are the things we must earnestly pray for" (GVG).

Psa 50:15

CALL UPON ME IN THE DAY OF TROUBLE; I WILL DELIVER YOU: (NT) A specially important verse for Israel in the LD. For soon there will come such tribulation as they have never known (Jer 30:7 and context). Only a widespread repentance in which they glorify God will save them.

Psa 50:16

Vv 16-21: The "wicked" ("a larger class than is generally supposed": Eur 1:16 -- but, actually, singular here!) have no business offering any sacrifice to the Lord. Sacrifices offered in the right spirit are necessary. But so also is a life of wholesome morality, of which the wicked know nothing. All this had been lost sight of in the northern kingdom: "Thou... castest my Words (the Ten Commandments, quoted in vv 18-20) behind thee"; hence the divine reproof (v 21) administered in current tribulation. (Is the "wicked" in v 16 another ref to, and are the words of vv 16-21 another reproof of, the vainglorious Shebna? See Psa 49 again.)

Psa 50:17

CAST MY WORDS BEHIND YOU: A pointed allusion to 1Ki 14:9, to Jeroboam, whose evil took Israel into apostasy.

Psa 50:21

AND I KEPT SILENT: See Ecc 8:11.

YOU THOUGHT I WAS ALTOGETHER LIKE YOU: In its various forms, this is perhaps the most universal condemnation by God of the folly of men. The most common mistake -- made by almost every man, whether "religious" or libertine, philosophical or indifferent, logical or sensual -- is to think that God is like himself, and therefore to presume that God will be pleased with (or at the very least will be complacent toward) behavior which He has by His word specifically condemned. This was the grievous error of Cain -- in thinking that a "sacrifice" with which he himself was pleased would naturally please God also (Pro 14:12). How many times since his day has such folly been repeated!

Psa 50:22

Vv 22,23: There were only two options -- to go on "forgetting God", and "be torn in pieces" with "none to deliver"; or to turn to Him in a spirit of (anticipatory) "thanksgiving" and with strong resolution to amend one's ways. This latter would guarantee "the salvation of God". In this last phrase Isaiah put his signature to the psalm. None was better qualified, either personally or by inspiration, to write this unusual psalm. Some scholars (eg Boutflower) think that Ahaz's animosity drove Isaiah into temporary exile in the northern kingdom. What more appropriate visiting card could he leave than Psa 50? A perusal of Isa 1:2-20 reveals marked similarities to Psa 50, both in phrasing and theme -- a further evidence that Isaiah wrote the psalm.

Psa 50:23

" 'Fill every part of me with praise, let all my being speak of Thee and Thy love, O Lord, poor though I be and weak.' And then, as by some sublime alchemy, the praise is transmuted into personal sanctification... and the command goes forth (v 5) to gather unto God His sanctified ones... and we begin to realize that this heaven-sent sanctity can encircle us all our days" (NPH).


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